Do you sometimes wonder if your addiction with your phone has gone too far? If you use your phone everywhere from the grocery store to the elevator, and even in the bathroom, you may have reached a level of distraction addiction where you are unable to be alone in your thoughts for any free moments during the day.
This would be understandable, especially during times of COVID-19, where everyone is working remotely. According to a 2019 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 8-12 spent an average of 4.5 hours a day on screens, while teens aged 13-18 spent 6.5 hours a day and this number is expected to be much higher for working adults who are working from home.
Some people argue that smartphones and technology has helped them to multitask and get more tasks completed in a short span of time. Generally, multitasking can feel right for the moment, but it is not really all as good as it looks.
Here’s the problem;
Quick hits of distraction ignite an area in the back of your brain called the parietal lobe, which constantly scans the environment for stimuli. But to deeply focus, you use the prefrontal cortex, in the front of the brain. A person can’t really use both well at the same time.
When you know you need to focus, you can’t simply tell yourself to do so. It takes too much of your brain’s finite willpower to constantly resist the distraction temptation. Asking your brain to ignore the phone next to you is like putting doughnuts next to a dieter or cigarettes next to a smoker.
Studies show, that just having your smartphone near you, or even face down on silent, drain your capacity to focus. Every time your mind wanders, whether you actually pick up the phone or not, you are not focused on the task at hand.
Research suggests that it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus after checking your phone. Think about how many times you check your phone in an hour, much less a day, and try doing the math.
Here are some quick tips for those of you who are facing screen time fatigue due to the pandemic:
- Take short breaks in between
Although this idea might seem counterproductive at the offset, it does actually help us get more done, without leaving us feeling burnt out. Taking short breaks in between can help our brain to register all the information that it has collected and looking away from the screen for a while. You could try taking a break by looking out of a window or going for a brisk walk around your home.
“Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,”
– University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras-
- Create the Mental Space to Be Productive
Many of us spend about 47% of our day thinking about something other than what we are actually doing. This eventually just decreases your productivity since your brain is thinking about more than one thing simultaneously. Simple breathing exercises could help to calm a wandering mind and help you to focus more at the work at hand. There are many apps and tools available if you are unsure how to do this. Jot down ideas or nagging thoughts that popped up so that you can attend to them after your work session.
- Put away all distractions
Before you dive into your work, try to put aside anything that could possibly distract you, such as your phone and other gadgets that are not being used. Turning off notifications can also help prevent us from constantly checking our phone. All of us have been guilty of picking up our phone to answer a text but ending up on TikTok for hours. To prevent this, its better to sit somewhere where you won’t need to hear these alerts in the first place.
As we emerge from the pandemic, let people come close to you again, but start socially distancing from your phone. That’s the only way we’ll be able to overcome this distraction addiction and live our life as we knew it pre-COVID-19.
Photo: National Museums Scotland